The Ravens rely on defense to punch tickets to the playoffs

BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Ravens clinched a playoff game on Saturday, despite feeling like it was the last to know.

The Ravens beat the Falcons 17-9 in the coldest home game in franchise history, but didn’t secure a postseason spot until 20 minutes into the game. Baltimore (10-5) officially made it to the playoffs when the New England Patriots lost to the Cincinnati Bengals 22-18 — a game that ended in the middle of a press conference by Ravens coach John Harbaugh.

When asked how it feels to be in the playoffs, Harbaugh replied, “Shall we?”

When told the Patriots had lost, Harbaugh added, “Well, it feels great…it’s probably going to sink in later tonight.”

There was no celebration inside the Ravens’ locker room after the team’s victory. Some players watched Patriots-Bengals on TV in the equipment room, but there was no advertisement for the entire team.

“Oh really? That’s pretty cool,” Ravens linebacker Roquan Smith responded when asked about Baltimore doing the postseason. “That’s what we play for – to be one of those teams that make it to the playoffs. That’s where the Super Bowl chase begins.”

The Ravens reached the playoffs for the fourth time in five years, but this postseason berth was different from the previous ones. It was the first time Baltimore clinched a playoff spot without Lamar Jackson as the starting quarterback since he did so with Joe Flacco in 2014.

Jackson has been out of action since December 4 with a sprained knee, and the Ravens offense has continued to struggle without him. In three games without Jackson, Baltimore scored two goals and totaled 36 points.

“We can get better and we need to get better,” Mark Andrews said. “Qualifiers are about doing that.”

Harbaugh said he did not consider how a playoff decision would affect when Jackson would return. The Ravens next play the Pittsburgh Steelers on January 1st.

“Players play when they’re healthy and ready to go; that’s really all we do,” said Harbaugh. “When the player and the docs come back and say, ‘Hey, it’s time’ [as] Coaches, we put it into the game plan. That’s really how [it works]. Thinking about it after that is just a kind of waste of energy and time.”

Harbaugh added, “Lamar is working hard to get him back. The coaches are working hard to get him back. I’m hopeful in a lot of ways, but focus on our team and next game plan with who we’ve got, really.”

The Ravens’ nine completions—Huntley was 9 of 17 for 115 yards—were tied for the fewest in a game since Harbaugh became coach in 2008. Baltimore beat Atlanta with its running game on the slopes and stingy defense.

The Ravens ran for 184 yards, getting 99 from Gus Edwards and 59 from JK Dobbins. Baltimore’s defense rallied to stop Atlanta on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line in the fourth quarter and held the team without a touchdown for the third time in six games.

However, the Ravens offense reached the end zone in the second quarter, when Huntley threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Demarcus Robinson. He ended a drought of 20 straight drives without a touchdown.

“Just scoring goals, period, is like tears of joy,” said Huntley.

Those tears probably dried up on the M&T bank court. The kickoff temperature was 17 degrees, two degrees cooler than any other Ravens home game in franchise history.

“It’s not ideal outdoor sporting weather, unless you’re an ice hunter,” Harbaugh said.

Crows can still take North Asia if they win. The last two games are against the Steelers at home and the Cincinnati Bengals at the end.

“Today I tweeted: ‘Dear Santa, all I want for Christmas is a win today,'” said Pro Bowl linebacker Patrick Rickard, who was wearing a Christmas sweater with flashing lights. “And he gave me that. So cool.”

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